When you talk so much about a topic as new and rapidly-developing as social media, the most exciting things are not necessarily the technologies that already exist, but rather the possibilities in the next few years. And the two areas that struck me as having the most possibility over the course of the semester were crowd sourcing and location based services.
Crowd sourcing is so compelling because it makes full use of the hyper-connectivity that the internet has always provided. Projects that would have been impossible 20 years ago can be accomplished with speed, accuracy, and at relatively low cost (sometimes none!) It speaks volumes that people are willing to put so much effort into crowd sourced projects for no pay, for example Wikipedia authors, or the people who jumped at a chance to make Super Bowl commercials for Doritos. These projects both serve a need, and serve people’s desire to just be heard, or to be validated, or share what they’re capable of. It’s really a very powerful phenomenon that has only recently become possible, and I think it has potential to do great things in the near future.
Location based services are quickly finding their way into almost everything we do with our mobile devices. It’s hard to find an app that doesn’t somehow use your location, or at least ask to. Many people find this a little creepy, and that’s understandable, but as long as privacy standards remain clear, user-friendly, and responsible, this is another area that has huge potential. Need a place to eat, a train station, or a police station? Just search. Can’t find your friend in a crowded city? Drop a pin in the map and text it over. And these are just the most basic location-based services. Pretty soon you’ll be able to walk down Newbury St. and receive all the best deals on your phone from each store as you pass by. Find that annoying? Turn it off (there’s the user-friendly part). There are also implications for safety that are just being realized with “Find my Phone,” “Find my Friends,” and other GPS tracking technologies. If I could tell you where this was going next I’d be in another line of work, but I’m sure this will soon find its way into parts of our lives that we haven’t even thought of.
The first thing that comes to mind when I reflect on my own use of social media for the class was a mistake that I made. Fortunately, like most mistakes, it taught me something. When we were assigned our Twitter responsibilities for the semester I already had a Twitter account, but I decided to create a second account specifically for #MI621. This was mainly because I didn’t think anyone in the class would care to hear me whining about soccer games, or doing my second-rate internet comedian routine. In my head, home was home and class was class, and ne’er the twain shall meet. The effect of this, however (besides being a pain logistically) was that each account was missing something.
I wrote about this in an earlier blog as it pertains to brands on Twitter. My advice to them was to give us a conversation like you’re a real person. Your whole personality is what makes you unique and distinguishes you from other brands. As it turns out I wasn’t taking my own advice. In building my own social media brand, I had split myself into two people: Class Ryan (@BCRyanD) and Home Ryan (@RDerosha). Each reasonably decent guys, but not all that compelling. If you’re a social media commentator on Twitter, you’re one of millions. If you’re an angry Liverpool fan, there are even more of those. But if you’re a social media commentator who’s an angry Liverpool fan, DC job hunting, fan of medieval European history, you’re unique. I’ve learned that complete personalities are what’s compelling on social media (why would it be different than real life?) and if I had to do it all over again, that’s one thing I would change.
Another theme that came up repeatedly in my head over the course of the semester is social media as a litmus test in the real world. We talked quite a bit about the recent incidents of hiring managers asking for people’s Facebook passwords, and we pretty much universally agreed that it’s wrong. But I do think that current bosses, potential employers, and the outside world in general are all within their rights to judge you based on what social media activity you choose to make public. If you’re smart enough to make your Facebook information private it says something about you and the choices you make, and the reverse is also true. I’m an avid Twitter user as well, but after this class I’ve been hesitant about making that public as well (I’ve gone back and forth almost weekly). And I don’t say anything on Twitter that’s remotely inappropriate, I just think that the discussions in this class have made me a bit more thoughtful about what I put out there, and that’s a good thing. It’s a personal decision for everyone about how they want to present themselves.
With all of the thinking and reflection done, I’d just like to finish by saying how much I enjoyed the class. You definitely get some comments when you tell people that you’re taking a “Social Media for Managers class, but I’ve found it to be worthwhile, and something that should be offered in more business programs. For Marketing majors, it should be required.